When I was pregnant, I was so eager for Penelope to get here so I would be able to see her and know that she was okay.
And then she was born and I immediately wanted her to be back inside, so I could keep her safe.
A few weeks later, I half-jokingly, half-completely-seriously-tell-me-it-will-stop-right-now, asked my Mom when I was going to stop worrying so much.
Without hesitation, she replied, “Never.”
Let me tell you, Momma doesn’t lie.
Twenty-one months into motherhood, this is what I would tell my brand-new Mama-self about worrying:
It’s not going to stop. It’s going to get worse and better.
Worse because she is going to grow, and as she does, so is the love you have for her. I know, you think you can’t love her any more than you do right at this exact moment. You’re still saying that almost every day in two years. And as she grows, right alongside your love, your list of things to worry about will grow, too.
Right now you’ve got the basics to think about.
Is she breathing?
Is she eating enough?
Is she eating too much?
Is she gaining weight?
Is she breathing?
Is she sleeping too much? Your pediatrician really loves this one.
Did she roll onto her belly while she was asleep?
Is she breathing?
Why didn’t you just get the damn video monitor so you could watch her breath?
New motherhood is a roller coaster of love and hormones and crying, but you’re doing great and, eventually, you will realize she is not going to stop breathing if you take your eyes off her. By month six, you will feel like a seasoned pro.
And then come the new worries. They are slightly more complex.
How can I teach her to be confident but not fixated on her appearance?
Am I challenging her enough? Too much?
Is she having fun at school?
Is she having more fun at school than at home with me?
How can the child only subsist off of six grapes and half a cup of yogurt some days?
How do I protect her from predators? No, not sharks. The more insidious kind of predator.
Though, speaking of, how do I protect her from sharks?
But, as I said, it gets better, too. Because the worrying comes hand-in-hand with the joy. You think you love this child right now?
In four weeks, she is going to look right into your eyes while you’re changing her and smile her first smile. It will be the best moment of your life.
She is going to roll over while you are sitting on the floor beside her, cheering her on. It will be your proudest moment in life to date.
In eight months, you will walk in to get her when she wakes up and, plain as day, she will say, “Mama.” This is not a fluke. You will cry your happiest tears.
She is going to say, “I love you,” totally unprompted. Brace yourself for that one, Mama.
In thirteen months, she is going to let go of the table she’s holding onto and walk. Real steps. Across the room and right into your arms. You will be laughing and crying and cheering and clapping like a lunatic.
She is going to show a heart so compassionate that she will cry alongside a character in a book because she is so sad for their sadness.
She becomes part of your little family in a way you can’t even imagine right now. She isn’t just a baby that you love more than anything, she’s your daughter and she’s fun and funny and happy and kind. She makes jokes and loves blueberries and headstands and animals and the color green. She is going to blossom into the most wonderful little person, and you get the privilege of the front row seat.
So, you sweet, tired, head-over-heals-in-love new Mama, the worrying. It’s not going away. You have to take the worry to get the joy that comes from the place of loving another person so desperately that you could not bear it if something happened to her.
It comes from being all in, and it is so, so worth it.